Face mask rules
Wearing a face mask is mandatory in some settings. Learn about when you need to wear a face mask, when you can remove it and who is exempt.
On this page
When face masks are required
All people in NSW over the age of 12 are required to wear a face mask:
in an indoor area of premises other than a place of residence
in an indoor area on common property for residential premises
at a public transport waiting area
in a vehicle or vessel being used to provide a public transport service
working at a hospitality venue and dealing directly with members of the public
on a domestic commercial aircraft, including when the aircraft is flying above NSW.
A person can remove their face mask if they are:
eating or drinking
communicating with another person who is deaf or hard of hearing
at work, and
- the nature of the work makes the wearing of a fitted face covering a risk to the person's, or another persons' health and safety
- where clear enunciation or visibility of a person’s mouth is essential
- where the work is in an indoor area and no other person is in the area
in an office building and
they are fully vaccinated
they are not in the part of the building that is a retail premises, hospitality venue, or an indoor recreation facility
asked to remove their mask for identity purposes
in an emergency situation
providing goods and services and the person needs to remove their mask to provide those goods or services properly
doing exercise outside, in a gym or in a gym class
in a dance class
at a correctional centre, place of custody, or hospital (as a patient)
a resident at an aged care facility
a guest in a hotel/motel and in their room
in the process of getting married
in a vehicle alone or with another person from their household.
You need to wear your face mask again as soon as the reason for taking it off has ended.
Penalties for not wearing a mask as directed
The NSW Police may issue on-the-spot fines to individuals who fail to comply with a direction to wear a mask, as it is a breach of public health orders.
Check the penalties for breaching public health orders.
Greater details on mask requirements
You must wear a fitted face mask when you are in an indoor area of common property in a residential building that is:
- strata titled
- community titled or
- company titled.
You do not need to wear a mask inside your own apartment.
Common areas where you must wear a mask include:
- a shared foyer or lobby of an apartment block
- lifts, stairwells and corridors
- shared laundry facilities and garbage areas.
Masks must be worn by anyone entering including:
- residents and visitors
- building managers, concierge staff and cleaners
- people providing goods and services including tradespeople and contractors
- people delivering food, mail and parcels.
NSW Health strongly recommends wearing face masks if you are unable to physically distance from people you do not live with, if they enter your home.
You can take off your face mask when you need to communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and seeing the mouth is essential.
It is important to keep 1.5 metres apart, where practicable.
Residents in an aged care facility are not required to wear masks, but all visitors and staff must wear a mask.
Under the public health order, a ‘fitted face covering’ means a mask or other covering that:
fits securely around the face, and,
is designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide the wearer with protection against infection.
When you wear a mask you must make sure that it is covering both your nose and your mouth.
Single-use and reusable cloth masks both help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, if used correctly. Scarfs and bandanas are not considered a ‘fitted face covering’ under the public health order.
Face shields are not a substitute for face masks however people who are unable to wear a mask due to an exemption, may find it easier to wear a face shield.
If this is the case for you, ensure the face shield covers the sides of your face and below the chin.
The public health order includes several lawful reasons for not wearing a mask.
You are not required to wear a mask if you have a physical illness, mental health condition, or disability, that makes wearing a mask unsuitable. For example:
If you have a skin condition,
If you have, an intellectual or physical disability,
If you have autism,
Please be respectful to people who are not wearing a mask as the reasons for not wearing a mask are not always visible or obvious.
If you cannot wear a face mask because of a disability, physical illness, or mental health condition, you must carry either:
a medical certificate or letter signed by a registered health practitioner (such as a doctor) or a registered NDIS provider, or,
a statutory declaration.
A statutory declaration will require you to identify your disability, physical illness, or mental health condition, and declare:
you have the physical illness, mental health condition, or disability, and,
the physical illness, mental health condition, or disability makes wearing a fitted face covering unsuitable.
Proof of exemption and identity
If you are in a situation where masks are mandatory, a police officer can ask you to confirm the lawful reason you are not wearing a face mask.
If asked by a police officer, you must show them either
a medical certificate or letter from the health practitioner or NDIS provider, or
a statutory declaration.
You must also carry and produce evidence of your name and address to a police officer if requested.
Children, toddlers under 2 years, and babies
Masks should not be worn by toddlers under 2 years of age and babies, as they are a choking and suffocation risk.
Children under 12 are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.
School staff and students
Find out about the COVID-19 safety measures at NSW schools.
People who wear traditional or religious garments
Even if you wear traditional or religious garments, you still need to wear a fitted face mask in the designated settings.
There are face masks available that can be worn with traditional and religious garments. If you are wearing a face covering, like a veil or scarf, it is recommended that you wear your face mask underneath.
Refusing entry to a premises
If a person refuses to wear a face mask at a premise, the occupier of the premises may refuse entry to that person. It is a matter for the occupier of each premises to exercise judgement on what is appropriate for their premises and for the well-being of their staff and customers.
If an occupier intends to refuse entry, they should be familiar with the exceptions and speak to the person to understand their circumstances.
Officers will issue a penalty notice if you clearly refuse to wear a mask without a lawful reason.